Kyrie Irving is enjoying another stellar offensive season as the Celtics find their footing. However, one distinct difference has been Irving’s improvement on defense, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes.

While the statistics are not eye-popping, there is a visual and discernible difference in Irving’s hustle and performance. As Forsberg notes, Irving entered Friday’s game ranked fifth in loose balls recovered (2.1), seventh in deflections per game (3.1), and eighth in steals (1.9). Irving is also ranked 18th in the NBA in charges drawn.

After Irving made comments earlier this year about him “coasting” on defense in his career, he has made it a point to not have that mentality anymore.

“I think it’s just a true challenge that I came into the season with of wanting to put an emphasis on that end of the floor,” Irving said. “That’s really what it comes down to. I think in my career I’ve really gotten away with just being an offensive talent, being a guy that has just been solid but never being a guy that I would say just consistently brings that effort every single time down the floor. “

Check out more Celtics notes below:

  • At a recent practice, Irving urged teammate Gordon Hayward to be more aggressive on the floor and he responded with a solid shooting performance in Friday’s win. As Harry West of Sporting News writes, Irving — who shares the same day for a birthday with Hayward — wants him to release the ‘a**’ in him. “I remember [Irving’s former Duke] coach [Mike Krzyzewski] telling me, you know, Gordon has a little bit of a** in him. And he needs that,” Irving said. “That toughness where he starts turning red and he starts getting into the basketball, getting out in transition and dunking the basketball and start doing those things.”
  • Jaylen Brown was asked how he felt about a possible change in the rotation upon his return from injury and he put the team winning ahead of his role, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes. “Possibly [Brown’s role might change], especially if we are winning. Whatever it is that needs to be done to figure it out,” Brown said. “Everybody has talent, everybody has ability, but, obviously, we have to make something work here. We don’t want to be looking down the line and trying to figure out, ‘What if?’ or ‘Woulda, coulda,’ whatever. 
  • As we relayed recently, the Celtics waived Walt Lemon Jr.,. He was on a two-way pact with Boston but did not see NBA action this season.

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